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MythBusters Episode 112: Coffin Punch

Air Date: November 5, 2008

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A person buried in a coffin 6 feet underground can successfully punch his or her way out, then dig up to freedom. (Based on a scene in the movie Kill Bill.)

busted

Based on tests with a martial arts expert, the Build Team determined that greatest force at which a person in a coffin could punch is about 1450 Newtons. Grant built a robot that could generate that force with a 3-inch punch, and it was placed inside a plain pine coffin. After 600 punches the robot had created a crack in the lid, but had not punched a hole in it. Then the team placed six feet of dirt on the coffin, and again the robot only split the lid and could not create a hole. To test what would happen if a hole could be made, the Build Team built an acrylic coffin outfitted with a trapdoor and a sliding panel to let dirt in. First Tory entered the coffin and 2 feet of dirt were placed on him. He was able to dig himself out. When Grant repeated this experiment with 6 feet of dirt, the dirt entered the coffin so fast and filled it so completely that there was no way anyone could escape. Based on these results, the myth was declared busted.

A police badge is bulletproof.

plausible

First, a silver star was tested, but the bullet easily penetrated it. A star on a copper shield was tested, but it also failed to stop the bullet. Finally, a star on a nickel shield was tested. It was heavily deformed, but it caught the bullet.

An MP3 player/iPod is bulletproof.

busted

Firing an AK-47, Adam’s second shot cleanly penetrated an iPod after his first shot only grazed it. The myth came from a story about a soldier in Iraq who survived when the iPod he was wearing was shot. However, he was also wearing body armor when he got shot.

3 pizza boxes in a warming bag are bulletproof.

plausible

Based on a story that a pizza delivery boy survived a shotgun blast by holding his warming bag in front of him, Adam and Jamie first fired birdshot at a warming bag containing three pizzas, and it stopped the all but six of the pellets. They then used buckshot which easily passed through the pizzas. To see how far the buckshot would penetrate, 5 warming bags, each containing 3 pizza boxes, were placed in front of the ballistics gel dummy. Buckshot was fired at it, and the shot made it all the way to pizza 14.

Human fat is bulletproof.

busted

Determining that the largest layer of fat around a human (Walter Hudson) would measure 16 inches, Adam and Jamie placed that amount of human-temperature cow fat in front of the dummy. The bullet made it all the way through the fat easily.

Human muscle is bulletproof.

busted

Using the measurements of a man with 3-inch pectorals and 11-inch biceps, Adam and Jamie placed 14 inches of cow muscle in front of the dummy (assuming the man placed his bicep over his pectoral and the bullet passed through them both). The muscle failed to stop the bullet.

A mixture of cornstarch and water is bulletproof.

busted

Adam reasoned that this mixture’s properties as a non-Newtonian liquid might allow it to stop a bullet. However, 6 thin bags full of the liquid failed to stop the bullet.

Bathroom tiles covered in a fiber-reinforced gypsum cement is bulletproof.

plausible

This material stopped rounds from a 9mm pistol, a .45 caliber handgun, and buckshot. It failed to halt deer slug or rounds from a M4 Carbine.

A belt buckle is bulletproof.

plausible

Although the bullet did pass through the belt buckle, a policeman who had been shot in the belt buckle and survived spoke with Jamie and Adam, saying that the bullet caused a large bruise but lodged in his shirt.

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29 Comments

  1. Richard Landgraff:

    For bullet deflection of badges, bibles, ipods, etc., the team did NOT take into account that all bullet hits in combat are at only 10 feet and perpindicular to the target. It would have been more scientific to try ricochetting the bullets at different angles.

    November 14, 2008 at 1:55 PM
  2. James:

    I also think they should have thested coffin punch with 4 times human strength like a vampire and use normal strength but roten wood or even balsa also they didn’t take into acount the twisting of the shoulder and posible kicking and elbows etc.

    November 24, 2008 at 2:41 PM
  3. Roger Rinker:

    I watched the Coffin punch episode last night and it was awsome. You guys are so entertaining. I did not catch the sensor that was used by Grant to record the punch force. Is it possible to e mail me what brand and model of sensor was used ?

    thanks, Roger

    December 26, 2008 at 10:52 AM
  4. Noa Rogers:

    Dear Jamie,
    Would bulletproof tiles be stronger if they used metal tiles or stronger concrete?

    Does the Army know about use of these tiles?

    Noa Rogers (Age 11)

    January 1, 2009 at 8:25 PM
  5. t.r.:

    I liked the coffin punch but the mythbusters should try more kill bill myths (rock salt shotgun for instance *nudge nudge*)

    January 1, 2009 at 10:32 PM
  6. Joe:

    I have 1 problem with the coffin punch. As I recall the punch from Grant’s punching robot travelled the same distance every time so obviously it couldn’t break through the wood. As cracks developed and the wood weakened you would be able to extend your punch further and further thus creating an eventual break through. With the robot stopping at the same distance each time it greatly diminishes the chances of breaking through the coffin. Think of boxing, you’re not aiming for your opponent’s head you’re aiming for a point 6 inches behind his head. I’d like to see it again incase I’m wrong about Grant’s robot.

    January 10, 2009 at 7:48 PM
  7. ELI JOHNSON:

    Can the wind completely throw off a bullet in the air when trying to shoot at something?

    January 22, 2009 at 9:54 AM
  8. Dale:

    I came to say the exact same thing Joe did. Was Grant’s robot calibrated to punch further then the top of the coffin?

    February 4, 2009 at 10:49 AM
  9. harold:

    you should have had a cook mix your cornstarch and water. then you would have been able to gage the right consistancy.

    February 13, 2009 at 10:22 PM
  10. 13 yr old:

    i like it , the bullet proof stuff can any one tell me what bullet proof thing are made of thx a lot

    February 28, 2009 at 11:05 AM
  11. Zhoen:

    I witnessed the surgery of a man shot in the abdomen, in a robbery of his store. The bullet entered the skin, passed through the fat layer, did not enter the facial layer, and lodged in the opposite side of the abdomen in the skin, having done no substantial damage. At this angle, the fat layer deflected the bullet, certainly did not stop it. I have no information about the calibre, type of weapon, distance or other interference.

    I’m sure his large belly fat both provided a target, and saved him, but not because fat stops bullets, simply because it was a quirk of angle.

    After this, the trauma surgeons used a scope to assess the abdomen, since the incision to make sure the bowel was not hit caused more damage than the bullet.

    (I am a surgical RN, FYI.)

    March 14, 2009 at 5:43 PM
  12. Aarika:

    First of all for the kill bill myth, with the punching the robot you used could only go up so high and not the same height of a human arm which would affect the results and the dirt you used was not wet…the farther you go down, the dirt is going to be wet which would stop it from caving in as much and make it more stable to dig through

    March 21, 2009 at 4:54 PM
  13. Gavin:

    I agree with the other comments on the reach of the punch and the dry/wet combination of the dirt. Also with the cornstarch it was only a mutiple of thin layers and should have been made into a thicker single layer each time giving it a chance to harden under the force of the bullet.

    April 6, 2009 at 6:26 PM
  14. KCP:

    OK I just wanted to say one thing about the coffin punch why test something that is so, so, oblivious. I mean I know how cool vampires and stuff trust me I read the Twilight books but why test something that has no actual back ground behind it. Also I personally don’t think you check you changed variables. I am still a fan, KCP

    April 18, 2009 at 12:27 AM
  15. Dat Van:

    I watched the coffin punch based on the Kill Bill myth. If you get the opportunity to revisit this myth, it would be worth testing a couple of other ways to break through the coffin and digging out. Below are some scenarios that would be worth to testing.
    1. the buried person kicks the end of the coffin to break through, the legs would generate more force, if this breaks through, test whether the person is able to turn around in the coffin to start digging.
    2. punch through head end of the coffin.
    3. punches the sides of the coffin
    4.dig out through the sides/end/head of the coffin and gradually move the dirt to the opposite of the coffin. By moving dirt this way, the dirt does not collapse so quickly which may give the digger time to move the dirt out of the way. It is also worth testing how compacted the soil tends to be in a real scenario because the soil used in the myth was freshly poured which tends to be very porous and collapses more readily.

    April 18, 2009 at 6:12 AM
  16. Peter from Darwin:

    My problem with the coffin punch is that the same spot is always punched. If you were doing this you would hit different spots creating multiple cracks thus more likely to break through the coffin lid.

    April 18, 2009 at 8:02 AM
  17. William Harrington:

    About the episode with the shotgun blast to the pizza bags with pizza:
    I am afraid you did not take into account that many hotbags contain a warming plate inside the bag to keep the pizzas warm when they are being delivered.I am sure that this would definetly stop and blast from a shotgun.
    I would like to know the results if you do test this theory.
    Love the show by the way…….

    April 22, 2009 at 11:58 PM
  18. jacky:

    I don’t really know about the myth of the coffin, because of one thing that could be possible… wouldnt it all depend on how big the person is in muscle mass? for instance if a small prson was trying of coarse he or she probably will not get very far. but if it was a larger male wouldnt he have a slight chance of escaping? by the way i LOVE your show mythbusters is the one show i love and look forward to. :)

    May 17, 2009 at 8:01 PM
  19. Fred Jr:

    Please Mythbuster!

    Re-do the coffin one!

    A robot arm can only extend as far as it is made to go!

    Same distance all the time…

    Humans are able to roll through further…

    Please Re-do that one! That’s the only Mythbusters segment I disagree with…

    June 14, 2009 at 12:35 PM
  20. Eric:

    Hello,

    I have more of a question then a comment, due to the bullet shooting through the fat and the muscle…
    Adam and Jamie, you shot the fat and the muscle with a handgun, now as the bullet travels a a slow speed..(900 ft. per sec.)
    Now there is one Episode were you were testing fire arms shooting into a the jell in a swimming pool.
    Now if I remember correctly the weapons that fired the bullet at a slower rate of pace hit the target under water…

    Now with the handgun went through the fat and the muscle, now with a bullet that would travel at a faster rate, would it really go through the fat and the muscle, instead wouldn’t it schatter into a dozen or my peices?

    Thanxs

    August 26, 2009 at 10:24 PM
  21. Lo:

    Wow, the people commenting on the coffin myth seem to have no knowledge of basic science AT ALL. Amusing really.

    August 28, 2009 at 6:12 PM
  22. caleb:

    were they just normal bathroom tiles? does size matter?

    October 12, 2009 at 9:33 AM
  23. random:

    well, i think if the crack on the wooden coffin was big enough (and in the show i think it was) you could probebly just start breaking away bits- and-bits of the coffin till you eather have enough room to get out yourself or the weight of the dirt demolishes the casket itself.

    November 5, 2009 at 12:56 AM
  24. random:

    And, you can try to actully push the coffin lid itself, but i wouldn’t, because you could cause the casket to collaps on yourself and sufficate you.

    November 5, 2009 at 1:02 AM
  25. Dylan Haley(15):

    Would a riot shield (such as used by riot conrol teams of law enforcement) be able to stop a low caliber bullet, and if so a higher caliber?

    December 5, 2009 at 5:22 PM
  26. Brian:

    Dylan,

    The riot shield is not designed to give the user protection from firearms. While it may deflect a low caliber bullet, this is not what it is designed for.

    There is however a shield known as the “Intruder” which is mostly Kevlar, used by SWAT teams for entry. This is designed to stop both pistol and rifle rounds.

    December 28, 2009 at 4:06 PM
  27. HR:

    SHOW BUSTED!

    After 27 years of running ranges and catching two bullets myself, I can tell you first hand that a fit tense muscle will catch a bullet! Soldiers that are fit can take a bullet strike and keep on fighting and we teach them to do just that!

    I retire in 2011, does the show need an expert?

    January 8, 2010 at 12:34 AM
  28. Alan:

    Hope you may hear this comments from China.

    As far as i know, there is a material arts called “Cun-quan” (cun refers to inch in Chinese, while quan means punch)which focus on generating maximum force within a limited distance. This unique technique has nothing to do with boxing, and I believe this is what used in the coffin break-through in “Kill Bill”.

    February 23, 2010 at 3:39 PM

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